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Sandakada Pahana - Moon Stone

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Sandakada pahana, also known as Moon-stone, is a unique feature of the Sinhalese architecture of ancient Sri LankaIt is an elaborately carved semi-circular stone slab, usually placed at the bottom of staircases and entrances. First seen in the latter stage of the Anuradhapura period, the sandakada pahana evolved through the Polonnaruwa, Gampola and Kandy period. According to historians, the sandakada pahana symbolises the cycle of Sansāra in Buddhism


Known in Sinhalese as sandakada pahana, it is roughly translated into English as moonstone. The name is based on its shape and design.The ancient chronicle Mahavamsa and Paliliterature such as the Samantapasadika refer to the sandakada pahana as patika.

Anuradhapura period.

A sandakada pahana of the Anuradhapura period

The first sandakada pahanas were created during the latter stage of the ancientAnuradhapura Kingdom. They were only placed at entrances to Buddhist temples during this period.

The carvings of the semi circular stone slab were the same in every sandakada pahana. A half lotus was carved in the centre, which was enclosed by several concentric bands. The first band from the half lotus is decorated with a procession of swans, followed by a band with an intricate foliage design known as liyavel. The third band has carvings of four animals; elephants, lions, horses, and bulls. These four animals follow each other in a procession symbolizing the four stages in life: growth, energy, power and forbearance. The fourth and outermost band contains a carving of flames.

Polonnaruwa period

The design of the sandakada pahana of the Polonnaruwa period differs largely from that of the Anuradhapura period. The single band that was used to depict the four animals was removed, and processions of the elephant, lion and horse were depicted in separate bands. The most significant change is the removal of the bull from the sandakada pahana. The Anuradhapura tradition of placing sandakada pahanas only at entrances to Buddhist temples also changed, and they are found at the entrances of other buildings belonging to the Polonnaruwa period as well.